Let's face it: freelance life can get pretty lonely. When you don't work at a company, you get to control your schedule, the work you do, and much more — but you also lose out on some of the opportunities that make corporate work rewarding, such as professional development. However, there's no need to lose hope. Managing your own professional development is not only possible to do as a freelancer, but it can also come with a wide variety of rewards. Read on to learn more about what professional development is and how you can use it to enrich your freelance career.
What Is Professional Development?
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of professional development, it's worth defining. Professional development defines anything that can help you continue your growth as a professional. As you may imagine, this can include a wide variety of activities, from continuing your education through classes, expanding your knowledge and professional network by going to conferences, and generally taking the time to work on improving your skills.
Managing your professional development as a freelancer will not only help you improve your skills, but it can also help you appear more attractive to potential clients who might want to hire you. A resume showing that you've continued to take classes demonstrates that you're a hard worker who takes their work seriously and is up to date on the latest developments in their field. Even better? Showing that you've continued to hone your craft will allow you to justify charging higher prices by asking for more money for higher-quality work. Professional development isn't just for your own benefit — it's also a great way to stay relevant and competitive in today's challenging job market.
Where To Start
Once you're convinced that working on your professional development is the right move for you, it's time to determine where to start. The easiest way to do so is to sit yourself down for a performance evaluation — yes, really. Critically examine your portfolio or body of work and determine which areas could use improvement. Is there a programming language or piece of software that you don't know how to use? Have you noticed that your social media accounts aren't getting noticed or exhibiting much engagement? No matter how talented and hardworking you are, there's always room for improvement.
After you've determined the area in which you want to improve, you'll need to come up with a plan for addressing it. Whether you think a continuing education class could help or that you need to spend an extra hour every day teaching yourself how to get comfortable with a new program, your plan doesn't need to be complicated to work. Read on to learn about some ideas that you can use to help you achieve your personal development goals.
Take A Class
Taking a class is a great way to educate yourself and learn more about the many aspects of your current field. Traditionalists might enjoy taking classes at a local community college or night school, which can provide structure and an in-person resource in the form of a professor. However, those looking for a more flexible learning experience that can be enjoyed on their own schedule might prefer an online class. Whether offered through a college or a site such as MasterClass, classes are a great way to educate yourself and make you look even more informed and knowledgeable to potential clients.
Practice Makes Perfect
If it truly takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, then every minute counts. Whether you're trying to get better at writing blog posts or mastering a new piece of software, taking time every day to practice is an important step in helping you improve your skills. Consider setting aside the same amount of time every day, such as an hour first thing in the morning, and adding it to your task list to get yourself used to practice on a schedule. Once your practice time becomes a deeply ingrained habit, it'll be even easier to continue honing your skills.
Try Attending A Conference
Going to a conference, whether in person or virtually, is a great way to boost your career. Potential clients will appreciate your commitment to staying up to date on the latest trends and developments in your field, and you'll relish the opportunity to connect with other professionals and freelancers whom you can add to your professional network. Don't forget to add any professional societies you belong to or conferences that you've presented at and/or attended to your resume to show future clients that you're active in your field and committed to working on your professional development.
If you're working on a project and a client asks you to take on extra responsibility in a field in which you're trying to improve, feel free to say yes. As long as you know that you can deliver on their requests (albeit with a little extra time and energy), there's nothing like being thrown in the deep end to help you sharpen your skills on short notice. If you learn best by doing, stretching your skills on a current project could be a great way for you to manage your professional development.
In the Internet age, improving your freelance education doesn't just have to mean taking formal classes. TED talks, podcasts, and blogs are all great ways to learn more about specific skills. Don't forget to branch outside your comfort zone a bit: you never know when a TED talk about software development might give you a great idea for a new branding strategy or when a podcast about designing your own work schedule might inspire you to change the way you freelance. Open yourself up to new information from a variety of sources, and your professional development will be all the better for it.
Working on your professional development doesn't have to be boring. In fact, as a freelancer, you have the ability to tailor what you do — and how you do it — to meet your specific goals and preferences. Taking the time to manage your professional development is a great way to ensure that your career as a freelancer is a long and successful one.
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